Hut! Hut! Life’s Little Lessons…Experienced Through Football.

I love football.  I just wanted to put that out there before I said anything more about it.  I’ve loved it since my Dad and I watched the Edmonton Eskimos from the “new” Commonwealth Stadium, in the late 70s.  He got season’s tickets and we would huff and puff up those cement stairs, to our seats, on the aisle, about three rows from the top.

“Geez, Dad, how come we can’t get tickets a little further down?” As I’d collapse into the seat (and take off my oxygen mask and crampons).

(Google Earth snapshot of the stadium, and where our seats were)

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He’d just smile, light up a cigarette (you could do that in the open air stadiums back then), and say, “No, hen, then you couldn’t see the PLAYS develop.  Up here you can see all of what’s going on.  I don’t need to see their faces, I’m interested in the big picture.”

So there it was. I learned to watch the Offensive Line shifts, the audibles, the shotgun, the fantastic way the CFL is that the Wide Receivers can be in motion towards the line of scrimmage before the play starts, and the intertwining of routes making their way down the field. It became more about the team, and their progress, than individual efforts.

Of course, the Canadian playing field is 10 yards longer and almost 12 yards wider.  It really does avail a more wide-open game.  And just 3 downs to get the job done?  Difficult.  Really difficult. 1st down, you get a few yards, 2nd down, you don’t quite make it, you’re a yard or two short? That’s it, you gotta punt or try for a field goal.  Your offense has to be a little more effective and on the ball (pardon the pun).  Even my husband has been brought over to the CFL side and marveled at its expansive, fast-paced beauty. (That is, when our provider actually decides to show the games on its Canadian affiliate).

And don’t hit the goal posts! They are positioned at the front of the end zone (which is 20 yards deep instead of the NFL 10).

Commonwealth Stadium is also where my Dad taught me about sportsmanship.  Like any eleven or twelve-year old, I had developed deep loyalty (read: crushes) on many of the players on the football team and would defend them to anyone.  One year, during the Labour Day (and yes, it IS spelled with a “u”, thank you) series between the Esks and bitter provincial rivals the Calgary Stampeders, on a glorious, prairie Fall Sunday afternoon, with a huge bright blue sky above, I nearly had smoke coming out of my ears at one of the more vociferous, and quite drunk, Stampeder supporters.

He must have been, maybe, eighteen (at least, because he was drinking a stadium beer and the legal age is eighteen), lithe, shirtless, hairless (his chest), with the feathered/banged dirty blonde shoulder-length hairdo popular then. He was tanned and had sun crinkle lines on his face that made me think he worked outdoors. His team jersey was tucked in to the back of his jeans, and the red shirt hung past his bum crack and down to his knees.

Any time, and I do mean ANY time, the Stamps made any kind of good play, he would stand up, beer in hand, and turn around to the crowd above him and just gloat, eyes narrowed, mouth set in a “mmm-hmmm!”, while his other hand displayed an index finger jutting skyward in a “#1” motion.

It was about all I could stand.  I wanted to throw my pop at him (pop being my Coke, in a big plastic cup).  My Dad saw the steam coming out of my ears and said, “What’s wrong?”  I answered, “That dumb guy is making me so MAD!  I just want to throw this at him and show him how WRONG he is!”

My Dad’s eyes softened and he made that funny little noise he made when he was amused, that wasn’t quite a laugh, but a hard outward snort through the nose (I’m pretty sure it’s a distinctive Scottish trait, but I could be wrong), and said to me, “No, wee Neecy, he paid his money just like everyone else for his ticket, and he’s allowed to cheer for whoever he wants to. You’ve got to respect that, and don’t let it get to you.  Just enjoy the game, even if your team isn’t winning.”

I was a little too young to grasp the gratitude he was expressing for, again, the big picture.  The aforementioned beautiful day, spending time with his daughter, surrounded by people who were (mostly) on the same side cheering.  Glorious.  I was a lucky little girl.

The intent of this particular blog was to talk about how difficult it’s getting to watch American football every week – with the rage, the injuries after practically every play, and the poor sportsmanship shown a lot of times by the players – having to humiliate and subjugate the other player that they’ve tackled, or ended up on top of.  I find it really crude that after a play, the defensive guy will pretty much get up from the feet of the player he’s tackled, and walk OVER him to make sure that the player on the ground sees defensive guy as the Alpha Male, and gets a face-full (or facemask-full) of his obviously superior junk.  Why don’t you just pee on him too? (Would that be a penalty? How many yards?)

But, I will leave that rant for another day… I have too much of a good feeling going on now, thinking about those truly halcyon days of watching football with my Dad, the lessons I learned from him, and from the game, and strolling down memory lane.

To me, that’s what professional sports should do – unite the people of the City and show us how alike we all are, and not focus on the differences we have.  Go ahead, you may say I’m a dreamer.

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My Arizona Road Trip

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I took a day off of work on Friday to drive to Prescott, Arizona for a women’s conference in the pines. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a big driver. My parents and I used to drive on vacations every summer (mostly because my mum was terrified to fly), but also my parents thought it was important that I got to see so much of the country, and I actually started to look forward to it every year. So I thought nothing of driving 6 hours to get to another state to see some friends and be high up in the Pines to be without TV or any other media for a couple of days.

As usual, it started with the 134 to the 210, with a quick detour to the 57 and on to the 10. This would be my highway for the next 233 miles. Once I got past Palm Springs, it was all new to me. I had never taken the 10 E any farther than that. Thankfully there wasn’t a lot of traffic and I was able to put the cruise control on and enjoy the scenery without having to worry about people around me too much. It was hot, so I had to turn the A/C up a notch – I don’t like air blowing directly on my face – my next car is going to have those nifty cooling/heating seats, I don’t care what the cost is!!

There were a lot of places I started to pass that I’d heard of, most notably the Salton Sea. I remember the movie with Val Kilmer and thought of it as this exotic place, like the Dead Sea, that had some miraculous power to heal or something. That was until I read in the paper that the Salton Sea is so toxic and full of sulfur, millions of fish regularly turn up dead on the shores when the wind blows across it. And also that it has a huge Meth problem. Not that exotic.

Once past Indio and Coachella, I settled in for the drive. It’s a two-lane highway and I found myself playing a pass-and-move game with another car – he would pass me and move in the the slow lane ahead of me, I would catch up and do the same – this went on for about 40 minutes. The landscape started to shift; the earth turned a coral color and it was really barren and flat. For some reason it looked like huge planks of salmon with dill trees sparsely stuck in them. The wind made impressions like the sections on a filet. Weird image I know but it really did.

I had never been to Arizona before so I didn’t know what to expect. I thought it would be desert and sand, with not a lot of vegetation. When I crossed the state line, the town of Blythe was verdant and lush – there was a suspension bridge across a huge wash that was brimming with water. The vegetation was darker than California’s, especially on the mountainside.

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I switched over to the 60 and it really got rural. RV parks popped up everywhere, no trees for shade, just vast acres of land with these white and metal trailers dotting the landscape. It was hot. There was lots of scrap metal and other items strewn about in front of houses and businesses – like it was too hot to get it to where they really wanted to bring it. I kept going, even though I needed to stop and stretch and get some gas. A sign said, “You are now leaving Hope behind.” I “hoped” it was just the name of the town and not a fact. I kept going.

The 71 was next; more flat landscape, although now there were those typical-shaped mountains in the distance. Not as pointy, more flat and red. The cactus growing there all seemed to be giving me the finger, which seemed rude to me, how did they ever expect visitors with such a welcome?

I finally stopped for gas in Aguila. It had just rained, poured in fact, and the air was heavy and thick with wetness. People were just starting to come back out on the streets. Gas was $2.99 a gallon, so much cheaper than California! There was a feeling I got from everyone around, like they were trapped in this town, like cats poised to jump into any vehicle and see where it took them. I paid for my gas and hurried back to the highway. It got hotter.

The road was so flat the heat caused mirages. I could see maybe 200 ft ahead of me, that was it. The heat sat there on the road, fat-bellied and corpulent, shimmering the air above the road so violently that I couldn’t tell which way the road turned till I was almost there. It was a bit like “the Twilight Zone.” I wished I had someone I was driving with to talk to, to break the tension and laugh a little. But it was just me and the CD collection.

I pushed the cruise control to eighty and turned my “Gomez” CD on. I needed to hear some happy music to counteract the chilliness I felt on driving alone. I kept on going down the 71 till I got to the 89 and turned North towards the mountains. The clouds came back and covered the sun enough so that it wasn’t as toasty in the car. A few fat drops of rain spattered on to my windscreen and I turned the wipers on and off quickly. For some reason I started to smile, at last relaxing a little and really being humbled by the beauty of the landscape and having some time off to see it. I turned the air conditioner off and opened up the sunroof – instantly my car was filled with moist, warm air and the smell of pinon. I took my hair clip out and let my locks swirl about in the wind. It must have looked a sight as the pressure from the sunroof being open made all of my hair stand on end and get sucked out the roof! It felt amazing, like a massage from tiny fingers.

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I got to the base of the mountain on the way to Prescott and prepared for the drive up to my destination. I was a little worried about my ears as my vertigo was not completely gone, but I took it easy on the accelerator and started up. It was not too winding at the beginning, and I was really glad it was paved. Each direction was on a different part of the mountain, so no chance of running into another car that was careening down the hill and coming round the corner at you.

It was getting a little claustrophobic now, the road wound round and snaked back and forth, the pines were enormous and created a canopy above, and the sides of the mountain were solid rock and really close to the edge of the road. Thank goodness there were look-outs every few miles – I made use of them to pull over, get my dizziness and nausea under control and then get back driving. Motion sickness only ever happens when I’m a passenger, so this is all new to me, and I’ll tell ya, I don’t like it one bit. Haven’t tried any other method of transportation but I’m hoping I don’t get the symptoms then too. Vertigo has changed a lot in my life.

Prescott was waiting at the top, and I felt relieved that I was almost there. My back was aching from all the sitting and my legs were starting to twitch and jump from lack of exercise. The town was nestled in tall trees and had all the entertainment offerings of a much larger city. They even had two Wal-Marts – a fact I found disturbing in that it would be nicer to see more community-oriented mom-and-pop outfits than chains – especially chains that were so underhandedly dangerous to America as a whole. But I digress and that’s a subject for another blog.

Copper Canyon Road carried me up to the camp where we’d be till Sunday. The roads were unpaved and pocked with canyons where the wash had eroded away the earth, and I had to really slow down to make sure my little Mazda didn’t bottom out going across them.

It was so quiet and so beautiful when I got to the upper lodge, I just stopped and sat on the ground. The clouds were roiling across the sky, in every shade of grey imaginable, looking like big handfuls of minty cotton candy; there were birds screeching in the trees and darting through the sky, and small animals ran from corner to corner, checking the new arrival out and perhaps hoping for some food.

My two days in Arizona were so relaxing, so fulfilling, and truthfully I did nothing! I can’t remember the last time I laid in big Adirondack rocking chair and let my imagination tell me what the clouds were. I became so aware of the absence of noise, and acutely aware of sound. There truly is a difference. Even the screech of a mountain cat in the dawn wasn’t frightening, it was more exciting and almost brought tears to my eyes.

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I left on Sunday with the thunder clapping and the huge raindrops hitting my car and a heart that was so much lighter than when I got there. I decided to try the shortcut down to the 89 that I had noticed on MapQuest and headed out Copper Canyon Road the opposite direction than when I arrived.

Bad decision. The rain was causing fast washes across the roads, and I was terrified my car was going to get stuck. I put the gear into low and tried not to brake too much, as when I did, the road skittered out from underneath me and made the car fishtail as the tires clung on the dirt roads.

I kept going, and going, and going down the mountain. There weren’t any road names anywhere and no where else to go, so I just kept on going. I prayed that the road didn’t dead end, as I knew there was no way I was going to be able to get back up the mountain with the road as slick as it was. I came upon a truck ahead of me, and flashed my lights to him to let him know I wanted him to pull over. My stomach stopped flipping and I relaxed a little as I pulled up to his driver’s side window. His license plate said Texas, and he was as reserved of strangers as I know a lot of Texans are.

I asked him where the 87 was, confusing the highway numbers. He said, “you mean the 89?” I said, yes, the one that hooks up with the 60 – totally forgetting the connector 71. He looked confused and said, “Where are you trying to get, what’s the name?” Los Angeles, I said, and I might as well have said Mars from the reaction he gave me. “You missed that I think,” he said. No kidding, I thought. “How the hell’d ya end up here?” Too long a story. He told me to keep going down this road and it would t-stop at the 89. He took off ahead of me and I kept him in sight, barreling down after him, afraid to lose the humanity I’d found in all this wilderness.

I came upon a religious family – not sure what they were, but they were dressed plainly, maybe Hutterites or Menonites, but they smiled and waved as I passed through their small town. “Skull Valley” was painted on the side of a building, and I panicked ridiculously and thought, Oh geez, it’s “Deliverance” and I’m the one with the pretty mouth. Los Angeles has never felt like “home” to me, but I was so desperate to blink my eyes and be there right then.

Finally, the highway came into sight. I actually started to cry as I took off towards the way I knew would lead me to home. I’m better with markers than directions, and being so happy on the way up here, I didn’t really take into account ones that would help me on the way back. It wasn’t till I saw the on-ramp to the 10 E that I really felt calm again, knowing I was only a few hours from a hot shower and soft bed.

Moral of the story: although there is something to be said about traveling alone and the peace and divinity you can experience by yourself, road trips are a little more fun when you have someone to share your insanity and panic with. And in cannibalistic Deliverance situations, there’s a 50/50 chance they’ll pick your passenger and send you on your way!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Change

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As hard as we try not to change, we are doing so every minute, every second of our lives here on the planet.  Trying NOT to change is the worst feeling in the world.  Change is natural.  It might as well be a synonym to evolution (oh wait, it is).

This is a picture of my hometown.   Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  Coming up Connors Road, past the Muttart Conservatory, toward Strathearn and Bonnie Doon.

It’s in my rear view through a mirror, because Edmonton is forever changed for me now.  This picture was taken in September 2012.  I was home visiting my parents, the third such trip that year, because I was worried sick about my Dad.  It’s the last time I saw him.

Edmonton is a great city.  It was an amazing place to grow up – safe, comfortable, expanding, a little hick, a little slick. Living there requires a certain inner strength – particularly to get through the winters.

That last trip there, I borrowed my Dad’s Chrysler and filled up the tank, and just drove.  I remembered all the places I used to drive with him – Jasper Ave. to pick up my Mum after work; 17th Street where he worked; 109th Street where Grama used to live; my sister from the CN tower, where she worked.  I’d go everywhere with him. He had a little bit of the Traveler in him, and thank God I inherited it.

Dad taught me to drive – again in a Chrysler, this time a burgundy LeBaron – after getting me set up with Driver Training the summer I turned 16, I would be anxious to go with him, and this time get behind the wheel.  Dad was an assertive driver – some would say otherwise, in not so nice terms, but I am forever grateful to him for helping me with learning the privilege of driving. And learning how to do it well.  In thirty years of driving I’ve had two infractions – one for pulling a u-turn trying to get out of traffic on the way to my Dr’s office when I miscarried and was bleeding so badly I had to be hospitalized; the other, driving my husband’s car, and being behind a jerk who was texting and talking on his phone, and when I briefly honked to get him to go (as the light had been green for a few seconds), he went, then stopped short again, and not knowing this car as well as my own, I slammed on the brakes but couldn’t stop, and barely tapped his bumper (even though he harangued me and was verbally abusive, and got a whole new bumper and paint job out of it).

Lots of people are intimidated in the car with me.  I do admit, I’ve had some anger issues, and swore a lot, and maneuvered my Mazda as if it were a Porsche, but I don’t think I was ever reckless. I’ve been in cars with drivers who are worse – not confident, unsure, so scared of getting into an accident that they’re actually a liability on the road – and I’d rather be a passenger with my Dad.  I don’t think I was ever frightened when he drove.

Anyway, I got in Dad’s car, and I eased onto the roads I had once known like the back of my hand.  Edmonton is a growing city, and the vast open fields and spaces, on the roads into it, from my childhood were virtually non-existent anymore.  Yes, it was from growth, but also a little from that weird realization that everything was bigger, farther away, took longer to get to, as a child.  I remember my Western Civ teacher telling us the one way to really realize how much time had passed and how we’d grown was to reach for the doorknobs in our childhood home.  That perspective of eye level triggering memories was the harbinger of seeing how old you were.

So, with the car as my eye and the rest of the city as my doorknobs, I set out to see how much I’d grown. And how much it had changed; but mostly, how much I had changed.

The trees were so much taller.  I’d been around when a lot of them were being planted, slim trunks roped to iron bars to help keep them upright – now towering above me and their canopies full and lush.

The Walterdale bridge, close to the river and the water plant, still hummed as your tires went across it, but it was much quicker than I remembered.

The High Level Bridge, by the Legislative grounds, sucked the car in to its narrow two-lane tunnel, and dumped me out right where I had my first kiss from the man I went to Boston for – the High Level Diner. Wistfulness and sentiment washed over me.  I turned east onto Whyte Ave., and had to pull over.  The tears were streaming down my cheeks.  On my left was Gordon Price music – a favorite hangout of mine while at Grant MacEwan in the Theatre Program – I would spend many a Saturday afternoon flipping through sheet music there.

It’s also the last place I saw my Grama.  We had spent the morning together, shopping, doing errands for her.  I told her I wanted to go to the music store and look around, and would she mind waiting?  She said, no, you go on, I’m close enough to home, I will just walk back.  I didn’t want her to, but she insisted.  So I hugged her tightly and gave her a little kiss, and went off to search the aisles.  A few minutes later, I saw her, putting her face up to the plate glass front window, her hand shielding her eyes so she could see in, and I waved to her.  She saw me, waved, and smiled that wonderful smile she had, and blew a kiss, and walked with her little boots and mink coat, home.

If I had known…

How many times do we have to say that to ourselves before we learn?  Before we say “I love you” so they know. Before we look one last glance at them so we’ll remember them.

So that’s it.  Edmonton’s changed.  I’ve changed. Life’s changed.  It’s forever colored with the memories of all these lasts.  Yes, there were a lot of firsts, too, which I do remember, but it’s the lasts that are breaking my heart, that have so much of me tied there.  When did it change to that?  From the place of all my firsts, now just a place of my lasts?  It’s painful. Maybe that will change too.

I’m Your Biggest Fan…

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(Franz Bischoff painting of the Arroyo Seco)

Early evening.  This is my favorite time of day.  It’s also my favorite time of year.

In California.

Early April, not too hot, the green starting to explode on the hills… Jasmine, that fragrant, heady harbinger of Spring.  The quick, look-fast-or-you-miss-them sunsets.

Those smells in the air, the light getting longer.  Better than the straight up hot spotlight that daytime and noontime give you – it burns me, more than just my skin.  It’s so bright, nothing is hidden – it wants in, and I don’t let it.  I haven’t let it.  California has not been my home for 15 years.

I’ve just lived here; it’s never felt like “home.”  Mostly because i didn’t want it to – I loved Canada, and as much as I loved Canada, I loved Boston a hundred times more – my heart broke leaving it, but now, fifteen years on, the heartbreak has lessened ever so slightly, and I am OK that I did.  I’ve grown up in California, in more ways than one.

I first visited when I was ten or eleven, some tween age.  My parents and I drove down from Canada to visit relatives here.  It was July, I do remember that – we were trying to get there for my birthday but didn’t quite make it.  We stopped off in Utah or Oregon somewhere; Mum and Dad bought a cake and surprised me with it at the hotel pool, where strangers and newly-formed friends sang to me.  We drove for hours and hours, and made it the next day, and then, when my Aunt scooted me out of the kitchen that night, my feelings were hurt, I didn’t know what was going on.  Then came the cake out of the darkness, half-eaten, the writing smooshed, “Hap Birthd Ber” only visible, with candles on it, and I felt special. Two nights of birthday cake and two nights of singing. Another relative made me feel like a princess – “I’ve got a special gift for you!” My eyes lit up and I smiled… “What? What is it?”  She pulled out a little velvet bag and said softly, “Make-up!” It was Clinique – a boatload of samples and “specials with purchase” that you get when you buy a certain amount.

I couldn’t breathe.  I spent the rest of the night, and the subsequent days we were there, highlighting, bronzing, glossing… I was in heaven.  Best tween girl present… ever.

My Aunt got me a powder blue lunchbox, with Vinnie Barbarino on it.  The rest of the Sweathogs were on the inside, plastered round the thermos, with their stock sayings next to them, grinning out at me.   But there Vinnie was, with his long, feathered dark hair, that goofy smile… and what did I say? “I HATE Barbarino!!”  Ugh.  Ten year old kids can be brutal.  I did go up to her afterwards and thank her and gave her a big hug.  She was smart – she knew that thing would be a collectible in a few years… too bad I don’t still have it, I might be a gazillionaire!!

The place where we stayed is less than a mile from where I live now.  Same town, one major street down the hill.  I pass by that house every day on the way home from work.  The big palm tree out front is gone, and the ivy’s been replaced with some grass and some terracing, but I still remember it.  Their house was so beautiful – it had a pool, and a cabana, a big patio, huge flowers, ivy everywhere.  When we went to Busch Gardens the day after arriving, I snipped a flower off the huge bush (were they peonies?) and my Aunt put it in my hair for me, in a beautiful big bun.  This place seemed unbelievable.  The sun was shining all the time.  There was so much to do, and everyone seemed happy and casual.  Shorts, tees, flip-flops.  My cousin had a yellow VW Beetle and she drove me around, telling me about the enormous tortoise at Knott’s Berry Farm (or the Zoo, one of the two), that was so huge, you could sit on him and he’d walk around.  I’m pretty sure my eyes popped out of my head.

Anyway… I’ve gone off on a tangent.  What i really meant to write about, was that for the first time since I’ve been here, I feel at home.  Is it because I’m a homeowner now?  Or the fantastic job?  The sense of not having to do everything the way other people do things here?  Yes, there are lots of fun things to do, and be, and see.  But, the one thing that California does promise, is that there is something for everyone.  Literally. I’m 25 miles from the ocean, maybe less, and I haven’t been to the beach in years.  And that’s OK.  I love the ocean, but not the Pacific.  I can’t smell it when I wake up, like I did the Atlantic in Boston. It’s different.  And that’s OK.

You all know I’m soft on Joni Mitchell.  Have been since I was a young teen.  “Blue” of course, was a seminal album of the 70s.  Like “Frampton Comes Alive” was standard issue to rockin’ teenagers in the suburbs all over, “Blue” was standard issue to the emo teens of my day (how cool IS it, really, that artists and their works are used as measuring sticks in the passing of time? A lot of other great stuff happened, but music and the arts help break it down for us, in ways we don’t even consciously comprehend.  That’s why I loved theatre so much, especially as a teenager.  I loved going to those amazing architectured halls and seeing that immediacy, that intimacy, feeling and seeing people having those forbidden things – emotions – and feeling them along with those on stage, and being able to take the lesson, without the horrible consquences.  What magic.  It’s still like that for me today too, but I’m so annoyed with the cell phones, the candy wrappers, the nose blowing…).

Joni talked about Paris, France.  Reading the news and it sure looks bad (it always looks bad in the news, don’t it?)

That was just a dream some of us had
Still a lot of lands to see
But I wouldn’t want to stay here
It’s too old and cold and settled in its ways here
Oh but California

Oh…but California… indeed.  Will you take me as I am?  Will you take me…as I am? Will you?

I hope so.  I’m taking you as you are… and you’re lovely.

California, coming home…

The Lazy Consumers

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I’m a hypocrite! That just flashed across my mind this morning as I was on my soapbox about the plastic bag ban in LA county. I was so glad that it passed and that now, people will have to pay $0.10 for a paper bag or bring their own. I got into a discussion with someone about all the selfish, consumer-driven trash that we are overwhelming our planet with. And there was a comment about how kids are not stepping up to the plate after finally being taught environmental science in the school curriculum. Or rather, how they are not picking up the mantle. Because they are constantly bombarded with messages about how to be cool, and most of that stems from having to have the latest gadget or clothing or the next disposable “whatever” in their teenage lives.

And then I went online to search for a single-serve pod coffee maker.

It hit me right across the forehead – I’m just as bad! I complain about consumerism, useless gadgets, people not being able to have a human conversation and social interaction, and I go off and do the same thing. It’s difficult to be that self-denialistic. That’s not even a word. But I don’t care.

I think of my friend, Ann, who is tireless in her causes. She worked so hard in getting awareness out about the vote to ban the plastic bags – she went to rallies, sent announcements through Facebook, always has a green message in her e-mails to you – she really and truly believes she can make a difference. And she does, in every single small way, every day, she is thinking about how to leave a better planet.  She is what I think would be called an ascetic. She doesn’t allow herself many conveniences or extraneous frills. She donated her car for a tax write-off and attends a lot of the rallies that she goes to by bus or other public transportation (which in Los Angeles is no small feat).

But, back to me and my selfish hypocrisy. I find it fascinating that since the dawn of the industrial revolution, we have come up with machines to “make our life easier.” They take away our work and leave us more time for “relaxing” and having more time for our families (but we really don’t spend that time with them). In the meantime, we get fatter, lazier, and more spiritually unfulfilled. Our manufacturing is mostly now done in China by young children with the cheapest of materials and the shoddiest standards that can be gotten away with. But it only costs $1.49 at WalMart, and that’s what it’s all about. So we can have more “stuff” that we want, even if it only lasts a year, or less, and is made out of man-made materials instead of natural fibers, so we can dispose of it when it starts to fray or lose its shape or pill up into little balls.  Then it can sit in landfills for a thousand or so years, leaching toxins into our soils and aquifers.

We have gone from a nation that respected, even revered, craftsmanship in all its forms – construction of homes, sewing, knitting, cooking, making furniture – a nation that once took pride in what it produced. Now, we’ve become lazy consumers. Yes, we consume a shitload of the world’s resources because we have such great wealth. But we are lazy. Not just in body, but in mind. We want the easy way out. We don’t want to have to think, or puzzle it out, or come up with great ideas (some still do, but they are a rarity, and looked on as “retro”). We want our machines to do it for us.  We have forgotten the feeling of happy exhaustion from a task well done, the aching muscles, the endorphins (now we go to the gym for that). The sense of accomplishment and pride at making something with our own hands.

There are a few inventions that are seminal – the washing machine – the refrigerator – I won’t say dryer because I remember as a kid my mum hanging out the wash on an outside rack – there was a smell that you couldn’t bottle into Downy and a feeling that no tumbler could impart on the clothes. That’s one of my points – we try to make these things that are already out there – the clothes on the drying rack – let’s invent Downy so it smells just like it. But it doesn’t. The scents in nature that are out there and so elusive – a rainshower (that smell of hot wet concrete in the summer, you know the smell don’t you?); a forest; an ocean shore; we try to invent facsimiles of this so we can have it all the time. Well, maybe we weren’t meant to have it all the time. Maybe the scents and experiences should only be experienced once in a while, or once in a lifetime even. My ex used to take me to his family’s cabin in northern Michigan in the summer. There was this amazing scent that was there – cherries, trees, earth, water, fire. Once you were there you got used to it and couldn’t discern the smell from just what you were breathing, but when you came home and unpacked, you were there again as your clothes released the scent of Traverse City, and you were instantly transported back. I have only smelled that smell one other time since. It grabbed me, stopped me in my tracks, and brought tears to my eyes. It conjured up the good memories I had when I went there. It was fleeting, and I wanted more. But I knew that the one whiff I got would have to tide me over.

Smell is the strongest sense we have to trigger memory, and we want these olfactory reminders all the time, so we desperately try to bring them back. So we have plug-ins, disappearing gels, ozone-killing aerosols to try and bring them back to us. At the cost of putting petroleum-laced chemicals in our homes. And loosing hormones (including photoestrogens that mess up reproductive organs and health), that we ingest that scramble our signals and confuse our body’s fine-tuned systems. But, at least it smells “good,” right?

Thank God we don’t have to smell our own humanity. We cover up everything that makes us human, in our quest to be better than human. Godlike. Surely, a spiritual being doesn’t stink, right? God doesn’t smell like sweat or musk or hard work. We coat our pits with aluminum and take the chance of Alzheimer’s later in life rather than smell human. We douse our pulse points with chemicals that smell like something else rather than the unique pheromones we all give off. We light a Yankee candle or spray lavender in the bathroom rather than let anyone think our shit stinks. It’s a toilet, right? Isn’t is supposed to smell a little?  I’d prefer that if you wanted to disguise where you’d been… just light a match, please!

We take away every single thing that makes us human, that designates us as animal (and I mean animal in the Latin term, “being that breathes”).

I think that we are all spiritual beings having a human experience. That our spirit has been plopped down into this “animus” and we are just trying to figure out how to be human. It’s not always fun.  It’s messy, fraught with sounds and smells that are uniquely us.  Probably why we’re such bad communicators too. Why can’t you read my mind? Well, maybe in the spiritual world you don’t have to, and we forget that.

The burping, the farting, the sweating, the crying, the vomiting, the sneezing… vive le humanity.

Photographs are not Memories, as such

bewitched

Photographs and memories are deceiving. They can cause a lot of emotional distress for perfectly innocent reasons. I’ve been sorting through old photographs of mine, and also of my husband’s, for a project I am putting together for our “wedding.” (We were already married in August of 2007, but we are doing a little celebration for family and close friends in May). There’s a book for me, a book for him, and one of us.

I turned 40 last year, and to help take the sting out of that, someone suggested crafting a book of photos that chronicled my life so far (a “Maeve” retrospective, if you will 🙂 ) It really did help put things in perspective – that high school and college were a fun time (sometimes) but so small in the grand scheme of things. I saw myself younger and full of potential and passion, and it was interesting to see how life and time change your face. It has been said that at 50 you get the face you deserve. I honestly can’t wait to see mine. I’ve worked hard at becoming a better person and to mend fences as best I can so that it doesn’t “wear” on me as I get older. In a lot of ways I feel younger and more focused than I’ve ever been.

God, I love my husband. How did I get so lucky? What cosmic pixie dust blew my way that night I returned his “wink” on match.com? We talked about this yesterday, how much choices influence us, and sometimes, even the wrong choices can put you on the right path. The documentary “Prince of Paisley Park” was on, and I was fascinated by the fact that Prince’s father moved to Minneapolis, MN as a Jazz musician. Now, forgive my ignorance, but Minneapolis MN in the 50’s doesn’t seem to me like it would be the Hub of musicians and a mecca for playing (I’m probably wrong, but just go with me). The circumstances that led to Prince becoming Prince were woven into that choice. A neighborhood that was almost completely white. Clubs and bars that were places to shine, but not really on a country-wide scale. Frustration on his father’s part – maybe enough to set the wheels in motion regarding alcoholism and abusiveness. For better or worse, Prince was forged in this fire and came out the other side, to become one of the most formidable talents and performers of his generation. Who’s to say that if his father had moved to Chicago or New Orleans or some other area more recognizable for Jazz, that his life would have turned out that way? Sometimes the crucible has to be really hot to burn away the impurities and filter the precious metal to the top.

This is how I have to take my husband’s youth. We went through a whole box full of memories and photos, and proms, and dances, together yesterday. I was actually glad he was there to tell me the context, rather than me making up my own stories.

He had a relationship with someone from the end of high school through his mid-20s. There were an awful lot of photos chronicling this era. While I was looking for pictures of him when he was younger, I got to know him a whole lot better. I couldn’t help it, I started to cry when I saw him with this woman and looking so happy and in love, and most of all, young. Proms, dances, sorority functions, they were all there, smiling up at me from their youth. A youth filled with love, excitement, and probably, lots of sex!

I think more than anything I wished I had had a youth like that. I was a late bloomer, and coupled with the alcoholism in my family, I barely remember my teenage years and early 20s very well. I was desperately trying to find out who I was. I never really had a high school sweetheart or a boyfriend till I was well into my 20s.

I am envious of this American phenomenon called “prom.” In Canada, at least where I grew up, we didn’t have proms. We had dances throughout the year, but no “spring formal” or anything like that – certainly nothing that would warrant having a formal picture taken with one’s date, and a different dress and tux rental for each! Date? We all sort of showed up and hoped nobody had puked in the corner of the gymnasium when we snuck over to neck with the cute jock from freshman year. There were only 400 of us in the whole school, grades 9-12. I graduated with about 30 other people that I had gone to kindergarten with, out of a hundred or so total. So high school was more about seeing everyone grow up with you, and having the same friends since grammar school. There wasn’t that anonymity that larger high schools have. In looking at Sean’s yearbook, he didn’t know a lot of the people he graduated with.

So, you see, when I see Sean in his tux, with the matching cummerbund to his date’s dress, I think I’ve missed out somehow.

It helped to hear that his relationship with her through all those years was not the best. Yes, he was smiling, but it was rocky – separations – physical and emotional, studded it through the years. Normal teenage and young adult emotions played a part in all of it.

I can’t be jealous of the woman who got so many of his years through his youth. We met at exactly the time we were supposed to, for exactly the right reasons. She may have photographs, but I’ve got him. I’d like to say I can rise above it and see it through my adult eyes. But somewhere, the teenage me is still feeing rejected, and like I wasted the best years of my life NOT having sex. Cripes – if I had that body now that I did then… OY!!

So, like Prince, our life together was forged by some bad choices, or choices we thought were bad at the time, but turned out pretty well. If he HADN’T had the relationship with her, he might not have ever gone to Berkeley, and then come back to Burbank. If I HADN’T had the brief affair with a friend’s friend when I came out here on vacation, I might have moved to New York instead of Burbank. And I know, deep down, so far, further than I’ve known anything ever before, that we are meant to be together. I know it like I know how to breathe.

Anyway, I did the only thing I could at the time while looking at the photos – wiped away my tears, and instead of focusing on “them” together in the pictures, I tried to look at my husband as a young man, full of promise, and love, and passion – those blue-green eyes so open and honest, those long legs like a young colt – and I fell in love with him all over again. How lucky am I that I got him and that he HAD this fabulous past that he can remember and share with me as we grow older together and get closer. I’d rather have him now, with that past AS the past, than to have loved him when we were younger and lost him, to have a lifetime of “what if,” and “if only.”

And, after looking at all of those pictures with his dark hair and buff body, the sea-green eyes and crooked smile, I did the other only thing any normal woman in love would do – I took him to bed and chased away our ghosts, exorcised them to the past, where they will firmly stay.

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